The Year of the Goat is a Lot Worse than Mercury Retrograde: “The Tree on the Hill”

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s original stories. Today we’re looking at “The Tree on the Hill,” a collaboration between Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel written in 1934, and first published in Polaris in 1940. You can read it here.

Spoilers ahead.

[“Surely you don’t think that the world is a rule for measuring the universe.”]

Series: The Lovecraft Reread

Change the Language, Change the World

A Note from Liz Bourke: I’ve asked Fran to write this week’s Sleeps With Monsters column because I really like her novel Updraft. Let her tell you something about how she went about writing it.

“… in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.”

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, in her 1996 Nobel Prize speech about the work of poets, concluded the above paragraph this way: “It looks like poets will always have their work cut out for them.”

All writers do this work in some fashion, even if poets get to use the prettiest knives. Part of the work is a constant re-honing of language; making us think about its power, and the uniqueness of everything we use language to describe, lest its opposite deaden our response to the world around us.

[Read more]

Strange Antecedents: A Personal Appreciation of Margo Lanagan’s Novels

This is the story how one of my favorite novelists, Margo Lanagan, first came to my attention. Lanagan is a “writer’s writer,” which means the many excellences of her work have a great deal to teach the rest of us writers. I’ll talk some about that too, how new fiction comes to be assembled from the building blocks of prior works.

Sometime in 2010, I became aware of the controversies raging in a corner of the science fiction/fantasy bibliosphere I knew nothing about: young adult literature. “YA is wretched, poor stuff, and the young people reading it will be ruined for good books!” “No! YA is the long-awaited return of joy, action and clarity to fiction, and, indeed, the salvation of us all!” “Actually, it’s the adults who shouldn’t be reading YA. O shame, shame, shame!”

Wow, I thought: with the opinions all so extreme and contradictory, I’d better read some of this YA stuff like pronto, and see for myself! So I bought three YA fantasy titles that were getting a lot of buzz around then, and began reading.

[The verdict?]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Your Kids Can Get to Know Their Universe with Science Comics!

First Second Books is launching a new series of SCIENCE! COMICS! designed to introduce parents, kids, and everyone in between and around to the tremendous discoveries humanity has made in the past few centuries.

The first graphic novel in the series, Science Comics Dinosaurs, debuts next spring and you can get a first look at it right here. Who knew something as boring as digging a canal could unveil an entire lost world?

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Against a Brightening Sky! Sweepstakes

Against a Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer comes out from Tor Books on October 6th, and we want to send you a galley now!

By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco.

Check for the rules below!
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Throw These Post-Apocalyptic Titles in Your Go Bag!

September is Preparedness Month, and what better way to celebrate than with a roundup of post-apocalyptic fiction? After all, if you’re prepared for that, you can handle pretty much anything. From literary looks at post-plague North America to ominously rumbly supervolcanoes to dystopian fantasy realms in need of a prophesied hero, we’ve covered every disaster and catastrophe we could think of, and ended up with some great titles for you to throw into your backpack/duffel bag/shopping cart before you head out onto the road (or, as the case may be, The Road). But, since we’ve probably missed at least a few, be sure to add your own favorites in the comments!

All of these titles can be found in the Tor Store on iBooks!

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Telling Time with Tesla!

This Tesla watch allows you to be on time for appointments while simultaneously honoring one of the greatest scientific minds in all of history! ThinkGeek has allowed itself to be the commercial conduit for this steampunk wonder, which lights up and everything!

Morning Roundup brings you tributes to Oliver Sacks, Wes Craven, and Velvet Goldmine, plus N.K. Jemisin and Ursula K. Le Guin share wisdom, and we look at the true heroism of parenting!

[Plus, a very shy octopus.]

A Post-Mortem for Hannibal, the Greatest Television Show of All Time

I’m not going to try to give you a Hannibal finale recap. First of all, there’s nothing I could say that wouldn’t be a spoiler. But more importantly, the finale was such a perfect consummation of three years of storytelling, and such a jewel of thematic elements playing out through characters’ decisions, that I think the time is better spent A) telling all of you out there who haven’t watched the show why you should have been watching it, and B) imploring you to go catch up on it all now. Because it isn’t necessarily over, and if enough of us pour out our love through Hulu binges and Blu-ray sales, we might still get a movie or follow-up miniseries. Also, Bryan Fuller’s next project is American Gods, and if anyone cancels it before it comes to its full, Fuller-approved fruition, I may have to quit media entirely. And I need to pay rent, people.

[So trust me when I tell you that this finale was on the Breaking Bad end of the spectrum, not the Dexter, and we’ll move on from there.]

Sorcerer to the Crown Sweepstakes!

Zen Cho’s debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, comes out from Ace Books in the U.S. tomorrow, and we want to send you a copy now! (The U.K. edition releases September 10th from Pan Macmillan.)

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on August 31st. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 4th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Cross of Confusion: A Cold Silence by Alison Littlewood

Hard to believe it’s only been three years since A Cold Season launched Alison Littlewood into modern horror’s hallowed halls, given the indelible impression she’s made to date. Her debut, selected as it was for the Richard and Judy Book Club, was widely-read and basically beloved; the British Fantasy Society deemed Path of Needles one of the best novels of the year of its release; and The Unquiet House was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson, which award Littlewood just won for her contribution to the inaugural Spectral Book of Horror Stories.

Long story short, this lady’s going places. But first, because her fans demanded it, I gather, A Cold Silence ushers us back to Darnshaw—in the company of the central characters who visited that village of vacuum black and icy white in A Cold Season, even—for a deal with the devil that did next to nothing for me, I’m afraid.

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Catch a Rising Wind with Fran Wilde’s Updraft

Kirit and her best friend Nat are on the verge of an important rite of passage, their world’s equivalent of taking a run at the driving exam. If they pass the test, they will be allowed to fly alone, on wings made of bone and leather, between the bone towers of their city. Failure means having to be accompanied by a responsible adult. It is the gateway to an independent future. Kirit hopes to apprentice as a trader to her mother, Ezarit, whom she idolizes. She envisions a future of travelling from tower to tower, mother and daughter, doing deals together and delivering vital goods.

The world of Fran Wilde’s new novel Updraft is a complex aerialist’s paradise, albeit a paradise besieged by monsters called skymouths. It is a single city, one subject to arbitrary-seeming laws, and its towers are living bone structures that grow ever higher. The hollow chambers within these spires shelter the citizens, but over time they grow cramped, closing on the lower levels, forcing the population into a perpetual scramble for altitude. Who you are, what you do, and where you’re located within your home tower are matters rigidly controlled by the Laws everyone is taught to sing in school.

As for people who defy this established societal order, they are given citations—tickets, if you will—that literally weigh them down.  The heavier a person’s crimes, the more likely that they will drag them out of the air and below the clouds, where certain death awaits.

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These Superhero/Dragon Ball Z Mashups Are Over Nine Thousaaaand!

Anyone notice something a little different about Wolverine? Something about his face looks fiercer, or like he’s been fused into an even more powerful character… That’s exactly what French artist Pierre-Marie Lenoir did with his “Fusions” series, in which he combines iconic superheroes with equally unmistakable Dragon Ball Z characters. Check out more mashups—we’re fans of his Batman and Robin—at his website! (Hat-tip to Nerd Approved for finding these.)

Afternoon Roundup brings you the truth behind Bill Murray’s Ghostbusters cameo, some lesser-known dystopian adaptations, and the loveliest way to get around!

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Fear the Walking Dead, S1 E2: “So Close, Yet So Far”

The series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead last week smashed the record for best cable premiere ever, with more than 13 million people watching (albeit still shy of its parent property’s average viewership). With ratings like that, it’s safe to say we’re stuck with Fear whether we like it or not. And if last night’s episode is anything to go on, the ride won’t be so bad after all.

[“This doesn’t end.”]

Toeing the Wavy Line in Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns

I hate flashbacks.

See? That’s what you do when you want to make a point. You state it, then move on and get to the rest of whatever it is you’re doing.

Case in point, I like to do projects around the house, like carpentry or gardening. Occasionally I’ll have to ask someone for help (because, you know, objects can be heavy, and sometimes there’s stuff I don’t know). All I want is help. Muscle or info. That’s all.

Then whoever is lifting/explaining has to go all wavy-screened Scooby-Doo on me (picture the wavy lines) and say, “I remember this one time…”

[And I’m frozen.]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Watch the New Trailer for MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles!

During last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, the network released the latest trailer for its adaptation of Terry Brooks’ The Shannara Chronicles! They pack a lot into a minute or so: sweeping shots of ruins and buildings alike, battles of magic and runes and collapsible swords, burning leaves, creatures of dream and nightmare, all set to a pounding EDM beat.

[“It has begun.”]

The Last Witness

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I’ve ever mastered. But now, I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more. Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I’m trying to bury…

The Last Witness is a classic K.J. Parker tale with a strong supporting cast of princes, courtiers, merchants, academics, and generally unsavory people. Available in paperback, ebook, and audio format October 6th from!

[Read an excerpt]

Five Stories with an Audacious Premise

If science fiction is a genre that asks “what if?”, then the authors of these five books have really outdone themselves. These are novels that go beyond the ordinary to ideas so outlandish that lesser authors might have rejected them as too insane. But these books aren’t comedies. These aren’t the kind of oddball concepts that just devolve into nonsense. Instead, these books take their audacious premises seriously, and bit by bit, explore the consequences to the characters and to humanity at large.

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Series: Five Books About…

Say My Adorable Bunny Name!

Benjamin Linus is a talented rabbit. In addition to starring in his own calendar last year, he is now tackling some of the most iconic roles in pop culture through a series of cute cosplays. We couldn’t resist his Walter White homage, but he makes an equally irresistible Doctor, and a striking Daenarys! Check out all of his new looks here!

Morning Roundup brings you Star Wars, now in order! News of the apes! A Ghostbusters reboot we never wanted to see! And some tips on role playing, for all you playas out there.

[Plus, if you’ve ever been baffled by Gremlins 2, we have some answers.]

Brian Froud’s Goblins Sweepstakes!

The 10 1/2 year anniversary edition of Brian Froud’s Goblins arrives from Abrams on September 1st, and we want to send you one of our three copies now!

Renowned artist Brian Froud and scholar Ari Berk have continued their exploration of the goblin realm. (For the uninformed, goblins are those maleficent creatures who cause all manner of havoc in the human realm.) Now, thanks largely to Froud’s and Berk’s continuing carelessness, the viscid and largely nonsensical NEW volume has been unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Among its pages are new letters of apologies and disclaimers complete with new art; a list of Gargle’s new titles, grants, entitlements, and responsibilities; and, sadly, much more! Also included is an envelope containing a new talisman that is guaranteed to ward off goblins.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 9:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on August 29th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on September 2nd. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.